Friday, February 1, 2008

Macro Rig for 2008


My Current Macro Rig
Originally uploaded by Dalantech.
At some point you have to stop experimenting and just get out and take photos, and after a lot of trial and error this is pretty much the rig that I’ll be using this year. I’m going to describe what’s in the photo to the right and then talk about the new diffusers.

I have the camera mounted on an Ergo Rest Multi Stand Tripod. I don’t use it if I can brace an elbow on my knee, but when I’m standing I can swing the wide two leg section out and brace it against my chest. Horizontal camera movement is pretty easy to control, but vertical movement isn’t and that’s what the Ergo Rest eliminates.

I have a remote release cord attached to the front leg of the Ergo Rest with Velcro. I use my right hand to hold the tripod and trip the shutter while adjusting the magnification with my left. I also use the tripod when shooting close-ups with a telephoto lens –very stable…

The rest is pretty standard hardware if you are a regular reader of this blog: Canon Xti (has been replaced with a 40D) with an MPE-65mm macro lens and an MT-24EX macro twin light flash. With the MPE-65 magnification starts at life size and can be increased all the way to 5x but there is no infinity focus –so this setup is strictly for macro photography.

Let’s talk about those diffusers…

Looking at the photos I took last year I noticed that the light was more diffused as I increased the magnification of the MPE-65. I’ve used all sorts of plastic hot glued directly to my MT-24EX to try to soften the harsh light it produces, but I wasn’t getting good diffusion with it until I hit about 3x.

I’m a big fan of Strobist, and no matter what photographic discipline you’re into his articles on light are priceless! His piece on Apparent Light Size got me to thinking that the diffuser I was using wasn’t large enough, since his rule of thumb for subject distance to diffuser size ratio is 2 to 1. As the magnification increase the working distance between the lens and the subject drops, so eventually I’d reach a point where I’d hit that 2 to 1 ratio with my diffuser and the light would get soft. But for a subject distance of 4 inches at life size I need a diffuser that’s at least 2” –not one that’s no bigger than the bare flash head.

After looking at Gary Fong’s Puffer Diffuser I thought I’d give it a try since it looked big enough and maybe the fact that it’s curved instead of flat would reduce reflections even further. A bit of a leap since I wasn’t sure if the diffusers would fit on the flash heads or if the flash heads would then fit on the standard Canon flash mount after I attached them. But not only are they just about a perfect fit for the MT-24EX, but I can put the flash heads on the Canon mount and they don’t touch –there’s about a centimeter and a half of clearance between the two diffusers when the flash heads are pointed all the way down. With both flash heads as close as I they can be I get about 160 degrees of light, and by turning the flash mount I can choose where the shadows will be.

New Diffusers

The end result of all that diffusion? The photo at the bottom of this post was taken at 2x. Notice how soft the shadows are and how “warm” the light looks…


Jumper 2008 series 1-3


If you don't want to use hot glue on your flash heads I'm sure double sided tape or Velcro would work just about as well.
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